Learn to Play: Designing Tutorials for Video Games, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Learn to Play

Designing Tutorials for Video Games, 1st Edition

By Matthew M. White

A K Peters/CRC Press

171 pages | 22 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9781482220193
pub: 2014-06-03
SAVE ~$12.99
Hardback: 9781138427662
pub: 2017-08-02
SAVE ~$41.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429095030
pub: 2014-06-03
from $31.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


See How to Unobtrusively Incorporate Good Teaching into Your Game’s Mechanics

Learn to Play: Designing Tutorials for Video Games shows how to embed a tutorial directly into your game design mechanics so that your games naturally and comfortably teach players to have fun. The author deciphers years of research in game studies, education, psychology, human–computer interaction, and user interface and experience that equip you to make dynamic tutorials that help players enjoy your games.

The book links game design principles with psychology through the game tutorial. It offers easy-to-implement changes that can make a huge difference in how players receive your games. It explains how you can educate new players and engage experienced players at the same time through a combination of good design and basic understanding of human educational, motivational, and cognitive psychologies.

Transcending disciplinary boundaries, this book improves your understanding of the science of learning and the art of teaching. It helps you design game mechanics, or tutorials, that teach people how to have fun with your games without ever feeling as though they’re being instructed.

Table of Contents


Video Games

Video Game Tutorials

Cheat Sheet

The Tutorial

What Is a Tutorial?

Why Tutorials Are Necessary

How Tutorials Teach

Three Tutorials in the Wild

Examples of Existing Tutorials in Current Games

You’ve Said Right and Wrong: Why?

Cheat Sheet

Learning Things

How People Learn Stuff

Why People Choose to Learn Stuff

How to Teach People Stuff

Cheat Sheet


Frustration and Boredom

Cognitive Apprenticeship

"Flow" and Other Reasons People Keep Playing



Clear Outcomes


Cheat Sheet

Facts about Players

Age and the Education Gap

(Experience + Skill)/Challenge = Fun

It Is Never Okay to Throw the Controller

The Big Five Motivational Factors and Games


Cheat Sheet

Eyes and Ears

Visual Stuff in Games

Audible Stuff in Games

Why Does This Matter?

Mayer’s Principles: Designing Learning for Our Eyes and Ears


Cheat Sheet

Return of the Tutorial: Escape from Skull Island

Escape from Skull Island

Overview of Mechanics and Gameplay

Controls and Inputs Overview

Interface Structure and Overview

Tutorials and Learning in Escape from Skull Island


Bullet Point Learning Design

There Are Really Three Things

No Exclusionary Mechanics

No "Club" Behaviors

Offer Learning Support

Follow the Cognitive Principles

Let Skilled Players Be Skillful as Fast as Possible

Reward Failures

No Small Punishments

No Small Rewards

Immediate Feedback on All Inputs

Massive Explosions of Juiciness

Harsh and Brutal Corrections of Unwanted Behaviors

Rewards Must Scale in Their Splendor and Awesomeness

Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment

Test and Retest Player Skill Level

Use Just-in-Time Tactics to Reward Continued Play

Procedural and Dynamic Rewards and Punishments

You Cannot Have Too Many Data Collection Hooks


Appendix: Further Reading


About the Author

Matthew M. White is an assistant professor in game development at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, where he teaches game design, computer science, and software engineering. He previously worked on interfaces, human-computer interaction, and game programming at the University of Prince Edward Island and Snow Day Games, a small indie studio. He earned his M.Ed. in instructional design and technology focusing on the design of games from the University of New Brunswick and his Ph.D. in education from Memorial University of Newfoundland, co-supervised through York University’s Education and Game Studies faculty.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Programming / Games